Category Archives: LGBTQ Issues

Trump’s “Blatantly Unconstitutional” Transgender Ban Blocked by Federal Judge

Ruling says that administration’s basis for ban does “not appear to be supported by any facts”

Written by Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-30-2017.

Demonstrators protest the Trump administration’s military transgender ban on July 26, 2017. (Photo: Ted Eytan/fickr/cc)

In a development hailed as a “HUGE step forward,” a federal judge on Monday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“Today’s preliminary injunction is an important step in the ongoing efforts to protect transgender service members from the dangerous and discriminatory policies of Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director at Human Rights Campaign.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is in response to a legal challenge—Doe v. Trump—brought forth by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) challenging the president’s directive.

Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling that the plaintiffs’ claims “are highly suggestive of a constitutional violation,” as the presidential directive “punish[es] individuals for failing to adhere to gender stereotypes.” In addition, the ruling stated, “a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the president’s announcement of them [on Twitter], the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself” are evidence for blocking the ban.

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), which filed an amicus brief in the case, called the ruling “yet another setback for the discrimination administraion.”

“Again and again,” said NCTE executive director Mara Keisling, “our courts have been forced to step in and halt this administration’s unconstitutional and dangerous bigotry. As today’s ruling makes clear, this ban was never about military readiness—just like President Trump’s Muslim bans have never been about national security. This ban is about discrimination, plain and simple. We are grateful that the plaintiffs and thousands of other troops will be able to continue serving without the threat of discharge while this case proceeds.”

The ACLU also filed suit to challenge the directive, with oral arguments in that case set for next month.

Responding to Monday’s ruling, Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said, “This is the first decision striking down President Trump’s ban, but it won’t be the last.”

“The federal courts are recognizing what everyone already knows to be true: President Trump’s impulsive decision to ban on transgender people from serving in the military service was blatantly unconstitutional,” he continued. “As all of these cases move forward, we will continue to work to ensure that transgender service members are treated with the equal treatment they deserve.”

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Sessions Issues Blatant ‘License to Discriminate’ With ‘Religious Freedom’ Memo

The new DOJ policy directive “will enable systemic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families,” rights groups said

Written by for CommonDreams. Published 10-6-2017.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions intensified the Trump administration’s “all-out assault on LGBTQ people” Friday by issuing a “religious freedom” directive to federal agencies that rights groups said would “categorize LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens who are not equal under the law.”

Outlined in a 25-page memo (pdf), the directive lays out the White House’s “muscular view of religious freedom” first expressed in an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in May. The memo details 20 “principles of religious liberty” to which all federal agencies will be expected to adhere.

“Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others,” the Associated Press noted. “The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.”

In crafting the policy guidance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) consulted extensively with “religious and political groups with a history of opposing protections for LGBT people,” but not “specifically” with any LGBTQ rights organizations, Buzzfeed reported on Friday.

Unsurprisingly, the DOJ’s directive was met with effusive praise by right-wing lawmakers and religious organizations, and fierce condemnation by civil rights groups that argue the Sessions memo constitutes little more than a “license to discriminate” against the LGBTQ community.

Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, said in a statement on Friday that the Sessions directive is a “blatant attempt to further Donald Trump’s cynical and hateful agenda.”

Justice Department policy as outlined in the new memo “will enable systemic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families,” Griffin concluded. “Donald Trump and [Vice President] Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards. We will fight them every step of the way.”

HRC argued in its press release that the Sessions directive would allow:

  • Federal contractors to deny services to LGBTQ people.
  • “Agencies receiving federal funding, and even their individual staff members, [to] refuse to provide services to LGBTQ children in crisis, or to place adoptive or foster children with a same-sex couple or transgender couple simply because of who they are.”
  • “A Social Security Administration employee [to] refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse.”

The new DOJ memo comes amid a flurry of policy moves by the Trump administration this week that will disproportionately affect women and the LGBTQ community, including a rollback of the federal birth control mandate and a reversal of government policy that protected transgender workers from discrimination.

In a statement on Friday, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, argued that the Sessions directive is “yet another mean-spirited attack against the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other minorities.

“Federal agencies, government contractors, and grant recipients should not be permitted to discriminate simply by citing a religious belief for doing so,” Gupta concluded. “We urge the federal courts to reject the radical efforts by this administration to justify discrimination on the basis of religion. We are strengthened as a nation when we work to protect and balance the rights and dignity of all.”

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